Military History Books
by Harold A. Skaarup   www.SilverHawkAuthor.com   
 
German V-2 Rocket, one that came to Canada

German V-2 Rocket, one that came to Canada

Data current to 13 April 2020.

 (CNE and Exhibition Place Archives Photo, Alexandra Photo Studio Collection, Negative No.s MG5-28-4 and MG5-28-6)

V-2 rocket on display at the Canadian National Exhibition, ca 1950. 

V-2 Rocket in Canada

While researching the locations of surviving war trophies brought to Canada in 1945, the author spoke with retired Captain Farley M. Mowat about his post war task of collecting German weapons and equipment that was of interest to Canada.  He was very detailed in his response.

  (Farley Mowat, Dec 1945)

When the war ended in Europe in May 1945, Captain Mowat was serving with the Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment in the Netherlands.  He was assigned to Intelligence duties, and eventually succeeded in locating, identifying and collecting over 700 tons of German equipment, documents and material which he then shipped from Antwerp back to Montreal.[1]

Captain Mowat ‘s five-man team gathered up major examples of German armour, artillery, support weapons and equipment from a variety of locations in Western Europe and he arranged for their transport back to Canada on an American Liberty ship, the SS Blommersdyke.  The majority of this shipment was sent to the Canadian Armament Research and Development Establishment (CARDE) based at Valcartier, Québec.  After examination, some of the kit was moved Camp Borden, Ontario, where a few of the larger armour and artillery pieces remain on display, while a number of other pieces were dispersed around the country.

The team collected a significant number of large scale weapons that made it back to Canada which have since disappeared, including Panzer III and Panzer IV tanks.  A Sturmgeschütz III they recovered was used (briefly) as a target on the ranges at CFB Petawawa, but was later salvaged and is now on display in the Canadian War Museum (CWM) in its heavily damaged state.  The Wirbelwind self-propelled four-barrelled Anti-Aircraft (SP AAA) gun system mounted on a Panzer IV chassis currently displayed at the Base Borden Military Museum was included in his list, but the Panther that was on display at CFB Borden (now restored in the CWM) was not.  The Panzer V came up from the USA in time to be placed on display on Parliament hill on Victory in Europe (VE) Day.

Other German equipment brought back by Captain Mowat’s Intelligence Collection Team included one 8.8-cm FlaK 37 AA Gun, now on display in the Canadian War Museum (CWM) in Ottawa, and one 8.8-cm PaK 43 AT Gun, which is now on display on the grounds of the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario.  Other Canadian units managed to bring back significant items as well, likely including an 8.8-cm PaK 43/41 AT Gun on display at Lisle, Ontario, and a second 8.8-cm FlaK 37 now on display on the grounds of the Royal Military College and a third on display at CFB Petawawa.

A good number of German artillery pieces captured or collected by Canadian military units overseas can be found on display at CFB Borden, Ontario, CFB Shilo, Manitoba and the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa.  A few pieces may also be found at CFB Petawawa, Ontario, CFB Gagetown, New Brunswick, and CFB Valcartier, Québec.

One of two Sturmgeschütz III tracked self-propelled tank hunters that were on display at Shilo has recently been relocated to England, while another went back to Germany.  One of the most interesting items from Captain Mowat’s SS Blommersdyke shipment that is presently being restored in the CWM is a very rare Fieseler Fi 103R Reichenberg IV piloted version of the V-1 cruise missile.  In 1945 Captain Mowat visited a firing range near Meppen, Germany, which had been used by the Krupp arms manufacturer as an experimental gun establishment to test new guns, shells and projectiles.  “At least a hundred huge steel tubes were on the firing line, many mounted on railroad carriages.  One...was a 60-cm siege howitzer...estimated to have weighed a hundred tons.”  The Intelligence Collection Team “took samples of everything”, including a 12-cm tank gun meant to arm the gigantic 90-ton German tank nick-named the “Maus” (Mouse).  The gun was brought back towed on a flatbed trailer by a 60-cwt truck.[2]

The 1944 Molch (Newt) one-man submarine as well as two Enigma encryption machines has also survived intact from the SS Blommersdyke shipment.  Not all of the Serial Numbers of the equipment found on Captain Mowat’s list match items with a similar description found in the CWM, so there are likely a number of other sources of origin for some of the items listed here.

Captain Mowat knew he was not responsible for all of the German equipment brought to Canada.  He had apparently arranged for a “14 tanks and self-propelled guns” including a “Royal” Tiger II a Panzer V Panther and a range of Panzer tanks from the Mk II upwards most in running condition.  In his list of items intended for transport, he had “23 special purpose vehicles ranging from an amphibious Volkswagen to a 15-ton armoured half-track personnel carrier.”  Artillery in the collection included 40 types of artillery pieces ranging in size from 2-cm to 21-cm, and embracing an airborne recoilless gun, a “squeeze barrel” anti-tank gun, infantry guns, anti-tank guns from 8.8-cm up to 12.8-cm, field guns, medium guns and heavy guns, all of which were in firing condition.  In his Progress Report to LCol Harrison, OC 1 Canadian Historical Section, HQ First Canadian Army on 10 July 1945, he noted that “Railroad guns up to 32-cm” were available but would “demand some time to move”.[3]

By 22 July 1945, the team had added a 63-ton Jagdtiger tank in operating condition to the collection as well as four 2-ton acoustic sea mines, four 24-inch acoustic torpedoes, a 45-foot long 12-ton V-2 rocket and 18 truckloads of various Wehrmacht equipment. [4]

The King (Royal) Tiger and Panther tanks were to be loaded on tank transporters and brought to the dock for loading on the SS Blommersdyke, but the American flatbed crews brought them to another site and they were subsequently transported to the USA.  One of the significant items he did manage to bring back was a V-2 rocket with a particularly interesting story attached to it.

Captain Mowat had spoken with the leader of the Dutch resistance in his area, Colonel Tyc Michaels, who informed him of the location of the Rheintochter Anti-Aircraft missile factory, which had been bombed out.  During the investigation of the contents of the factory, his team collected some documentation and a few missile parts that made it back to Canada.  He also learned of a trainload of ten V-2 rockets which were sitting on railway cars in a railway siding hidden in Germany.  “The missile was located off the right of way on the north south line running along the Weser River west of Nienburg, Germany.  It was the only one of about ten that had not been shot up or burnt by air attack.  As the V-2 at the time of ‘procurement’ was forbidden by 21 Army Group to Canadians this piece had an interesting several months hiding in woods and being disguised as everything from a privy to a submarine, to keep it from the prying eyes of the British High Command.”[5]

Just before the order forbidding the acquisition of any rocket material was sent down, Capt Mowat had dispatched Lieutenant R. Mike Donovan, a Canadian Intelligence Corps Officer, to see if he could acquire one of these V-2s from the British who occupied the sector.[6]  Lieutenant Donovan set out from the team’s home base at Meppen in the Netherlands and over a three day period drove to a railway siding “somewhere near Hamburg” where ran into a British detachment guarding a number of railway flatcars each carrying a V-2 rocket.  The British were not keen on parting with such important war material to “colonials” and wouldn’t let him get near the site.  After an initial recce of the scene, he noted through his binoculars that “an access roadway ran alongside the rail spur and that the last V-2 in the train was partly concealed in a pine woods through which the trail meandered to join a secondary road not far beyond.”  Lieutenant Donovan drove back to Ouderkerk and joined by Lieutenant Jim Hood set off again with a 12-ton 16-wheel Mack breakdown lorry with a tow-hook, made a brief detour to Bremerhaven where they liberated a German one-man mini-submarine trailer and then drove to a forest within two miles of the V-2 rail-car site, where Lieutenant Hood hid with the rig and himself.  They were also bearing a “30-litre demijohn of DeKuyper’s gin.”

Lieutenant Donovan drove on in a jeep and presented himself again at the guard post.  He offered to share his gin, and while pretending to get loaded himself, proceeded to get the British Infantry guard group drunk.  Just before dusk, he told his drinking partners he had to relieve himself, and went back to his jeep where he used a small Number 38 radio set to tell Lieutenant Hood the coast was clear.  Lieutenant Hood and his work crew quietly as possible eased the Mack and its trailer up close to the railcar with the chosen rocket.  There in the dark, the Canadian soldiers stealthily managed to break the chains and “rolled it off the flatcar and down a bunch of timber skids on the trailer”.[7]  (This could not have been an easy task in the dark, as the rocket is the size of a modern day SCUD missile similar to those the author examined near Policharki, in Afghanistan).

While Lieutenant Hood was crawling cautiously away with the black-painted V-2 rocket prize, Lieutenant Donovan was leading the British guards in a singing session.  When he felt the coast was clear, Mike disengaged himself, but left the still well-filled demijohn with his British choir.  He caught up with his crew on the highway and sped ahead of them, stopping at each checkpoint along the way to warn the barrier guards that a bomb disposal crew was coming through with unexploded ordnance, and as a result  and he and his crew barrelled back the way they came and delivered the rocket to Ouderkerk in Holland.”

On discovering the V-2 outside his window the next morning Captain Mowat had the rocket moved into a large storage hangar.  In order to keep the collected war prize concealed, Captain Mowat had carpenters build a small wooden conning tower, which they installed on top of the rocket, boarded over the fins and installed a wooden propeller.  Once the mock tower and propeller were in place, the team proceeded to paint the complete V-2 rocket in navy blue.  Curious inquirers were told that the device was an experimental submarine.  In this form, the V-2 was kept hidden until it could be loaded on the Liberty Transport Ship SS Blommersdyke which eventually left port carrying over 700 tons of collected German war prizes and steamed across the Atlantic to Montreal.[8]

On arrival, Captain Mowat spoke with the Chief of General Staff (GGS), Major-General Howard Graham, an officer he had served with in the Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment, to explain in detail what they had imported.  Shortly afterwards, a Lieutenant-Colonel arrived from the Canadian Armament Research and Development Establishment (CARDE) based at Valcartier, Québec, along with a work crew which hauled the V-2, trailer and all, back to Valcartier.  There, the V-2 was dismantled.  As the science team was examining the rocket they made the interesting, if somewhat disconcerting discovery that the warhead was still filled with its high explosive material.  The liquid explosive compound inside the rocket’s warhead had hardened and had to be removed by the scientists by carefully drilling a hole in the nose cone and inserting a hose to wash it out.

The V-2 was blueprinted and then disappeared from the story for a few years. In 1950 it was placed on display on the grounds of the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto. After this, it disappeared again. There is a very strong possibility that this V-2 is buried on the grounds of the former RCAF Station Picton, Ontario. Locals in Picton who grew up during the 1960s recall the V-2 and other old equipment being bulldozed into the base landfill site. The search is ongoing.

[1] Author conversation with Captain (Retired) Farley Mowat, 29 June 2006.

[2] Farley M. Mowat, My Father’s Son: Memories of War and Peace, (Houghton Mifflin, the University of Michigan, 1992), p. 296.

[3] Farley M. Mowat, My Father’s Son: Memories of War and Peace, (Houghton Mifflin, the University of Michigan, 1992), p. 297.

[4] As an aside, Captain Mowat mentioned that claims for damages from a number of Dutch towns were “probably perfectly valid” due to the “results of putting an Infantry Captain behind the steering bars of a Royal Tiger.”  Farley M. Mowat, My Father’s Son, p. 299.

[5] Catalogue of Canadian War Museum Equipment Collection, p. 121.

[6] Lt R.M. Donovan and Capt F.M. Mowat are mentioned by Major S.R. Elliot in Scarlet to Green, A History of Intelligence in the Canadian Army, 1903-1963 (Canadian Intelligence and Security Association, Hunter Rose Company, Toronto, 1981), p. 341.

[7] Ibid, p. 301.

[8] Ibid, p. 302.

[9] The author spoke with Dr Charles Rhéaume, PhD, DHH 2-7, who found evidence that the V-2 was displayed at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto in 1950.  The date of display was documented through Audrey Borges from the CNE Archives.  The V-2 was made available through the auspices of the Department of National Defence for the 1950 display.

 (CNE Archives Photo)

 (CNE Archives Photo)

V2 rocket on display at the Canadian National Exhibition, Toronto, Ontario, 1950.  This rocket was recovered from Europe in 1945 by Captain Farlehy Mowat and his DHH Intelligence Collection Team, examined at Camp Valcartier, Quebec, and shown here at the CNE in Toronto.  It is believed to be buried somewhere on the grounds of former RCAF Station Clinton, Ontario, ca 1960 (TBC).

 

 (DND Photos via Mike Kaehler)

V-2 Rocket in Canada, ca 1960.

V-2 Update by Andrew King TheTimeWinders@gmail.com (22 Nov 2014)

A retired Air Canada pilot, David Savage, who lived in Picton, Ontario, in the 1960s, provides some clues as to the rocket’s potential resting place.

On the outskirts of the small town, there are the remains of a once-sprawling Forces base full of assorted military equipment and buildings from its role as a Second World War RCAF training facility.

In the 1960s, the base was used for storing surplus aircraft and artillery training. Surplus P-51 Mustangs, B-25 Mitchell bombers and other aircraft were stowed to be sold off for scrap or to collectors. In his recent book Camp Picton, author Ian Robertson mentions the V2 rocket in great detail, and he spoke with Savage, who managed to photograph a few things around the airbase in 1961.

One of Savage’s photos shows what appears to be the lost V2 rocket sitting on its side, apparently on the same trailer used to transport it at the 1950 CNE, weathered and missing its nose cone. The unmistakable shape and size is clearly that of a V2 rocket. It seems logical that it was brought to the Picton airbase for storage with all the other unwanted old DND equipment.

Savage left Picton in 1962, never knowing what happened to the rocket he captured on camera. The base closed in 1969, and the whereabouts of the V2 are unknown with no further information about what happened to the stored rocket available.

Locals in Picton who grew up during the 1960s recall the V2 and other old equipment being bulldozed into the base landfill site. If this is the case, a very significant piece of world history lies under the surface, waiting to be discovered, perhaps preserved and exhibited in a museum along with the fascinating story of how it got there.

The airport property, including the landfill area, is owned by Loch-Sloy Holdings Ltd., which has reported that the landfill area that may contain the remnants of the rocket is a “contaminated” zone, hindering further investigation.

With the possibility that Canada’s lost Nazi rocket sits buried beneath a layer of dirt in Picton, one wonders if it remains there, or perhaps sits in pieces at some forgotten scrapyard. With only 20 remaining examples out of the original 6,000 rockets made, it might be worthwhile to find out, once and for all, whether Mowat’s captured rocket is really there, waiting to become a new part of our collection of great Canadian war stories.  Andrew King.  TheTimeWinders@gmail.com.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3584067)

Fieseler Fi 103 Reichenburg IV piloted Buzz Bomb brought to Canada in 1945 by Captain Farley Mowat's Intelligence Collection Team, shown here on display on Air Force Day at RCAF Station Trenton, Ontario, 16 June 1947.  This item is now on display in the Canadian War Museum, Ottawa, Ontario.  To the right of the R-IV is a Junkers Jumo engine taken from one of the two Messerschitt Me 262 jet fighters brought to Canada.  Five of these jet engines survive in the Canada Aviation & Space Museum in Ottawa, but the two jets were destroyed.  Additional data can be found here:

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